Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cracked Actor

Video for David Shane Smith's 'Actor' starring Sasha Gransjean.


actor from davidshanesmith on Vimeo

I met Sasha Gransjean last September at Stroboscopic vs Unknown Theater and then at Casual Carousal at The Breakfast Club where he shared the bill with a certain DSS. They actually did a duet together - something about hiding the body...

My write up the next day was pretty accurate:

David could well be the new Leonard Cohen. Poetic lyrics and finger-picking acoustic guitar but updated with a sampler and some other electronics that elevate him into lo-fi Idle Tigers or Beck territory. The American Momus? Possibly...


The rest (as they say) is history...

Monday, March 30, 2009

RIP Maurice Jarre

The French film composer and father of Jean Michel Jarre was 84. Jarre was best known for his work on the movies of David Lean: Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984). All three won Academy Awards for best film score.

Friday, March 27, 2009

SLR and DSS at eVocal

Book ended either side of the Stroboscopic guys were a couple of interesting bands/artists from Davis, California. Many Many Blogs was mainly a guy playing guitar and singing like a psychiatric patient whose medication wasn't working. It was entertaining though - particularly when a girl joined him to play thumb piano on one song which was excellent. Mucky the Ducky were cool too - a freeform ambient/free jazz experiment which at times sounded like Gy├Ârgy Ligeti's contributions to 2001. Good music to skin up to...

David Shane Smith was on top form. A few new(?) songs at the beginning which sounded as good as anything on Cloud Pleaser. My favorite song at the moment is the existential masterpiece 'Liqour Store' which was excellent, and the sampled 'Empty Action' sounded great too. 'Eyes' was good but lacked flexibility with it's drum machine backing - losing it's subtle tempo changes where the chorus drops off the beat. David told us he was ending the set on a downer as he amusingly dedicated 'Miserblism' to his parents!

DSS


STANLEYLUCASREVOLUTION played a great set too... Not as polished as The Airliner a few weeks ago (the odd dropped loop etc) but it's always the unexpected stuff that makes SLR such an entertaining live act. Similar set to the last show plus a couple of additions, including the live debut of 'This World' - possibly his best (and most commercial) song since 'Gods Don't Worry'...

SLR

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Glory is fleeting...



I don't remember going up to London much as a teenager, so I never experienced the buzz of going to a place like the Rough Trade shop in its formative years. Anyways, Croydon had it's own punk and new wave record shop - Bonaparte!



I remember well the giant Elvis Costello billboard, although back in the day it seemed somehow bigger! We used to hang out in the shop pretty much every Saturday around 1978/79, occasionally buying singles (everything we could afford by The Buzzcocks, The Clash and The Jam) and sometimes (funds permitting) an LP. I remember my friend Steve trying to persuade me to get Elvis Costello's 'Armed Forces' (released January 79) but I thought the cover was shit so I got the first PiL LP instead (released December 1978)...



Most of the time we didn't buy anything - just watching the punks walking in and out. Unlike Rough Trade's Ladbroke Grove shop, I don't remember there being a reggae crossover - Croydon wasn't much of a cultural melting pot in those days, although West Croydon down towards Thornton Heath was more of an ethnic mix. We weren't really punks ourselves - more a mix of new wave and mod (Harrington jackets and Jam shoes) moving into the whole Two-Tone/Ska thing as 1979 progressed.

The office at Bonaparte


The staff were always cool and Bonaparte actually employed a couple of Croydon's famous musical talents - Kirsty McColl and Anne Clark. McColl (who went to school at Ashburton where my Mum worked) had a job in the mail order department and Clark worked in the shop after a stint as a nurse at Croydon's notorious psychiatric hospital Cane Hill. Clark became involved in The Warehouse Theater (just around the corner from Bonaparte) - putting on shows by Croydon's The Damned and Bromley's Siouxsie and the Banshees and Generation X. She began experimenting with music and lyrics herself, appearing on stage in Richard Strange's Cabaret Futura with Depeche Mode (featuring regular Beckenham clubber Dave Gahan).

Kirsty McColl and Anne Clark


I don't remember when Bonaparte closed but that whole row of buildings was demolished when the new East Croydon station was being constructed around 1990 (the new station opened in 1992.) Bonaparte used to be on the left hand side of the station.

The original East Croydon station


and how it looks today...


Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever...
Napolean Bonaparte

RIP Uriel Jones



The legandary Motown drummer was 74 and was the last surviving member of session band The Funk Brothers.

I thoroughly recommend the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown about The Funk Brothers story.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Photos from The Airliner...

Better late than never... Here are some photos from The Airliner show last night:

The Studiofix (9:07pm)


Anny Celsi and Nelson Bragg (9:56pm)


Old Toy Trains (10:31pm)


ExDetectives (11:35pm)

ExDetectives at The Airliner

The Studiofix were excellent - their bluesy rock the equivalent of an all girl Jimi Hendrix Experience. Certainly the singer's guitar playing has improved since I last saw them - quite a feat as she never stops bouncing around. The drumming is the highlight though - one of the best drummers (male or female) I've seen on the local LA scene. Not sure any of their songs are particularly memorable but fun nonetheless...

Anny Celsi and Nelson Bragg were cool. The songs were stripped-down singer-songwriter fare and you could imagine them having an alt-country flavor with a full backing band. Props for covering two great songs - Lulu's 'To Sir with Love' and Nancy & Lee's 'Some Velvet morning'...

Old Toy Trains are another band who I haven't seen for a while but they are still doing their thing... Their thing is an ultra lo-fi early Creation vibe - like if Pat Fish was a smack addict who never met Max Eider. By the way, thanks for the JBC dvd Chris!

ExDetectives were fun - playing with an abandon that was infectious. Maybe they were excited to welcome back Meriah after their stand-in bass player at the last show! She certainly adds the X(X) factor and 'Return' was an appropriate best song of the set.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Do it yourself...



'Do it yourself - the history of Rough Trade' is BBC4's excellent feature length documentary on the rise and fall (and rise) of Rough Trade - the record shop, turned indie distribution giant, turned record label.

The Rough Trade shop opened in 1976 and quickly became a successful distributor of small indie labels such as Factory, Postcard, Mute and numerous others. Founder Geoff Travis then started the Rough Trade record label and quickly found moderate success releasing the debut Stiff Little Fingers LP 'Inflammable Material'. As the distribution arm (run by Richard Scott) continued to flourish, the label failed to hold onto their promising bands until signing The Smiths to a four album deal in 1983. The success of The Smiths covered a lot of cracks in the business practises of Rough Trade, which was being run almost as a worker's collective (each employee was paid the same wage regardless of position!) Increasing divisions between the label and distribution arms, and the demise of The Smiths in 1987, were a major factor in increasing financial problems, and cash flow ground to a halt in December 1990. Assets were frozen and Rough Trade was disbanded in June 1991.

Travis and new business partner Jeanette Lee (a former PiL member) went into artist management and were instrumental in solving Pulp's legal issues - resulting in the band signing a lucrative deal with Island Records. Perhaps encouraged by their success with Pulp, Travis and Lee re-acquired the Rough Trade name, and relaunched the label. Their success was almost immediate - turning The Strokes from an unknown NYC band to the biggest indie band in the world, and launching the careers of indie guitar bands such as The Libertines...

The documentary features extensive interviews from the main protagonists in the Rough Trade story such as Geoff Travis, Richard Scott, Green Gartside (Scritti Politti), Johnny Marr, Jarvis Cocker and Jeanette Lee as well as excellent archive interviews and footage of the bands. A very entertaining 90 minutes...

Hang the DJ

I will be DJing at the ExDetectives show at The Airliner tonight. In reality this means pressing play on my iPod and then pissing off to the bar. My iPod will be playing a hand-picked (mouse-clicked?) selection of songs that have previously appeared on the Deconstruction podcast...

Definitely for your ears only...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Factory Communications 1978-1992 CD4



(Wilson, Erasmus and Martin Hannett at Strawberry Studios)

CD4 covers New Order's 'Fine Time (FAC223) from 1988, through to the last regular release on Factory - Happy Mondays 'Sunshine and Love' (FAC372) from 1992.

The final cd in the Factory Records story is quite rightly dominated by Happy Mondays (5 tracks included) and by New Order and their various offshoots (Electronic, Revenge and The Other Two.) Perhaps significant (given the dire financial problems Factory found itself in) are the inclusion of tracks by Northside and Cath Carroll, two projects Factory invested heavily in who failed to sell. Northside were an average Stone Roses imitation and Carroll (who had previously released records on Factory with Miaow) was clearly in a genre (Sade/M-People etc) that Factory had no idea how to market...

Overall, Factory Communications 1978-1992 is an excellent boxset, capturing the mood and the times the records were released expertly - from post-punk to the Hacienda and Madchester. The set avoids being merely a 'greatest hits' collection (which would ultimately have been all Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays and Electronic) by including the bands and records that never made it - particularly the groups Factory stood by through thick and thin (A Certain Ratio, The Durutti Column etc,) that most other labels would have dropped after one or two unsuccessful singles.

Factory Records went into receivership in 1992 but it didn't really end then did it? Soon would come the books, the movies, the documentaries, the exhibitions and the rebirth of a city. But first there was (of course) the music. Some of it great (some not so much) but all of it was undeniably Factory Records...

And God said to Wilson:
Tony you did a good job. And basically you were right. Shaun is the greatest poet since W.B.Yeats; Joy Division were the greatest band of all time; you probably should have signed The Smiths, but you were right about Mick Hucknall. His music's rubbish and he's a ginger...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Factory Communications 1978-1992 CD3



(Factory Records partner and Joy Division/New Order manager Rob Gretton)

CD3 runs from New Order's breakbeat/hip-hop masterpiece 'Confusion' (FAC93) from 1983 through to Happy Monday's mission statement '24 Hour Party People' (FAC192) from 1987...

CD3 continues the dancey theme of CD2 but stretches the boundaries with elements of hip-hop (Confusion), jazz (Kalima's 'Trickery') and funk (Stockholm Monsters horns sounding like an early blueprint for The Go!Team.) The interludes from the dance numbers are quite wonderful - from the beautiful piano/violin duet of The Durutti Column's 'A Little Mercy' to the spritely James single 'Hymn from a village'. CD3 closes with New Order ('Fine Time') and Happy Mondays - a symbolic passing of the baton with Madchester just around the corner...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Factory Communications 1978-1992 CD2



(Peter Saville, Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus. Erasmus suggested the name Factory to Wilson after seeing a sign saying 'factory closing' and thought they should reverse the trend!)

CD2 covers 1981 (New Order's 'Everything's gone green' FAC53) to The Wake's 1984 release 'Talk about the past' (FAC88) and is predominatly filled with strange and wonderful dance music. From New Order's early forays into electronic music (culminating with the seminal 'Blue Monday') to the fractured funk of A Certain Ratio and the approximated bossanova rhythms of Swamp Children, CD2 is full of interesting stuff and is only let down by the appalling lyrics of 52nd Street, who spoil a great backing track with the cringeworthy refrain 'cool as ice, twice as nice'. The CD closes strongly with John Robie's remix of Cabaret Voltaire's 'Yashar', Mike Pickering's Quando Quango with 'Love Tempo' and finishes with The Wake, who sound spookily like Black Kids, although I guess that should be the other way round as The Wake were around some 20 years before Black Kids...

The Hacienda had opened in 1982 but was still mostly hosting bands in an almost empty club, but the seeds were being sown for a Manchester dance explosion that would take off in 1987.

Factory Communications 1978-1992 CD1



Before the books, movies, documentaries, exhibitions and rebirth of a city there was (of course) the music. Some of it great (some not so much) but all of it was undeniably Factory Records...

CD1 covers the early years of Factory from 1978's A Factory Sample (FAC2) through to Section 25's 'Dirty Disco' from Always Now (FACT45c). Despite the 14 or so different bands featured on CD1, the music has a cohesive feel thanks to Martin Hannett's production - all deconstructed drums that don't sound like drums any more, prominent bass lines, guitars that shimmer like shards of broken glass and sparse synth textures that give everything an otherworldly feel...

The highlights are the Joy Division songs (especially 'Transmission' and 'She's Lost Control'), the original version of OMD's 'Electricity' which is quite charming in its lo-fi quirkiness (apparently OMD hated it and promptly left Factory), the primitave samples and arpeggiated guitars of The Durutti Column's 'Sketch for Summer' and Factory's only reggae release 'English Black Boys' by X-O-Dus. Also good are the two Section 25 songs (especially 'Girl's Don't Count') and it's interesting to follow A Certain Ratio evolving from Joy Division sound-alikes to white funksters over their three featured songs... In the meantime, Joy Division had become New Order and the poignant 'Ceremony' is also a more than worthy inclusion towards the end of the first cd of Factory 1978-92...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

RIP Natasha Richardson

The award winning British actress was 45... With her sister Joely she continued the acting/movie dynasty of parents Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson. She was married to actor Liam Neeson.

Saville row...

Peter Saville discussing Banksy and Damien Hirst and their 'contributions' to fine art...


Peter Saville Q&A: What do you think of Banksy? from D&AD on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

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Primal Scream and BJM at Club Nokia

Brian Jonestown Massacre were cool, although after seeing DiG! one can't help be a little disappointed if they make it through the set without at least one fight... The sound was a little quiet (compared to Primal Scream) but this gave the set a warm mellow feel as the 8 piece band (is four guitars really necessary?) dispensed their smacked out wall of sound...



I gave up buying Primal Scream music in the 90's when they started to turn into the Rolling Stones. There are still elements of the Stones (Rocks, Country Girl) but the majority of the set was pure Stooges - an assault on the senses of speed, volume and blinding white lights. Breaking out of this relentless assult provided the best moments - in Screamadelica's 'Higher than the sun' and 'Movin on up', 'Kill all hippies' and a blistering version of 'Swastika eyes'...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kidulthood...



Saw the film Kidulthood (2006) last night - pretty intense stuff! Set in London, this tale of 'yoof culture' in the inner city deals with a group of teenagers whose lives revolve around sex, drugs, violence, knives, guns, bullying, suicide and alcohol. The film paints a pretty grim picture of teenage life in London and although you hope things aren't quite as bad as this in real life, you kind of know they are... The soundtrack is a who's who of urban British music including The Streets (when they were good), Skinnyman, Klashnekoff, Dizzee Rascal and Roots Manuva to name a few... I hear there is a follow-up called Adulthood so looking forward to seeing that...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Watchmen

Finally found time to see Watchmen last night. I enjoyed it despite the fact I went out to complain twice that the projection was out of focus - which it was for all the commercials and trailers beforehand... They still didn't fix it!

Anyways, having not read the graphic novel for 15 years I was able to watch the film on it's own merits and I thought Zack Snyder did an excellent job. The casting was amazing, especially Jack Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Billy Crudup in their roles as Rorschach, The Comedian and Dr Manhatten respectively... The special effects were very cool without having that cheesy CG look and indeed the whole movie had a neat retro feel, capturing the eras (in Moore's parallel world) in which it took place faultlessly... The action sequences didn't overwhelm what is a cerebral plot and the graphic violence and sex was in keeping with the spirit of the graphic novel - at least what I can remember of it...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Face!

Before the jockney with a dodgy haircut was the cockney with a great haircut. The Small Faces featuring Immediate label-mate P.P. Arnold singing mod anthem 'Tin Soldier'...

David Shane Smith at Best Buy



Seeing anyone play a gig at 2pm on a Sunday in a Best Buy can be a little surreal... No-one was trampled to death although there were fears of an earthquake at one point but this was probably a THX demonstration in the Home Theater department... Note to David - probably not a great idea to shout earthquake in a packed Best Buy! We could have done some looting on the way out I guess...

DSS played an acoustic set, adapting many of the songs with a Best Buy flavor, for example 'Eyes' where "there's eyes watching you..." became "Best Buy watching you from the darkest place on earth...." Amongst the other songs was the acoustic section of 'Miserablism' and the wonderful 'Liquor Store', whose depiction of the hum drum lives of the people who frequent a liquor store could easily be applied to the hum drum lives of people who frequent consumer electronics stores... "a car, a job, a marriage" indeed...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Honey Pie at The Gypsy Lounge

Honey Pie played an accomplished debut gig at The Gypsy Lounge in Lake Forest. The band (featuring occasional members of the SLR backing band Vince, Derrick and Justin) have a poppy alt-country sound and of course the musicianship is first class. However, singer Trisha Smith lacks the charisma or vocal talent to elevate Honey Pie beyond 'Battle of the Bands' also-rans...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Maybe I'm amazed...

Channel surfing on a Sunday evening can sometimes be a fruitless exercise but last night I spent a while on VH1 Classic... First off I caught the 'Tommy' half of The Who live at Isle of Wight which is always great viewing. I could watch Keith Moon all day long although John Entwistle's skeleton suit had more than a touch of Spinal Tap about it...



Following The Who was The Faces live at the BBC. Despite being a huge fan of The Small Faces I've never really paid much attention to The Faces - I think the Rod Stewart angle put me off. However, it was excellent - particularly their version of McCartney's 'Maybe I'm amazed'...

David Shane Smith at Spaceland

Wonderful set from DSS at Spaceland last night - the sound was perfect... A few songs returned from The Airliner set including the Christian Bale sampling 'Additives/Preservatives' and the one about 'the humming of machines' with its Nick Drake style finger picking. My only criticism of The Airliner set was I wanted to hear more from 'Cloud Pleaser' and last night I wasn't disappointed. Great versions of 'Crumb', the rap part of 'Miserablism' and the haunting 'City of the future' were only surpassed by a breathtakingly beautiful version of 'Beauty Force' - quite stunning...